Microsoft's surprise move to acquire Nokia's handset business for $7.2 billion started back at Mobile World Congress in February. Interim Nokia CEO Risto Siilasmaa revealed today that an "open dialogue" started just over six months ago. Bloomberg reports, citing sources, that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer initiated the talks after both companies agreed the close partnership on Windows Phone wasn't working as they'd hoped.
Although it appears Microsoft was keen to secure the deal quickly, Nokia's board is said to have met over 50 times to discuss the sale in what Bloomberg describes as a "soul-searching exercise." The Nokia Microsoft deal was codenamed Project Gold Medal. Nokia was codenamed Nurmi after "the Flying Finn" gold medal runner, and Microsoft took the name Edwin Moses after the American athlete who also won gold medals. Bloomberg describes the talks as a sprint rather than a marathon, noting that today's announcement was timed to follow Steve Ballmer's retirement plans.
Curious timing around Ballmer's retirement and restructuring
The timing and talks, with key issues said to have been worked out by mid-summer, was around the same time that Ballmer was planning his own retirement and restructuring of Microsoft. Ballmer moved Julie Larson-Green, who took over Windows engineering responsibility shortly after Windows 8 shipped, into the head of Microsoft's newly formed Devices and Studios group — taking control over hardware projects like Surface and Xbox. Larson-Green will now be joining an expanded Devices team at Microsoft that will be headed by Stephen Elop once he rejoins Microsoft after the acquisition closes in early 2014. With speculation that Elop could be the next Microsoft CEO, the timing and planning on Ballmer's behalf is certainly curious.
Bloomberg also claims that Microsoft is keeping an eye on BlackBerry. The struggling smartphone maker recently formed a special committee to consider a sale of the company. Its success on the enterprise side may reportedly attract interest from Microsoft. Perhaps the Nokia deal isn't the last mobile surprise of 2013.